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Waiver Wire: Valuable pieces worth considering

Michael Hurcomb
Fantasy Writer
  •  

I have to hand it to the marketing gurus who came up with the blind taste test. They took out all the prejudice and preconceived notions, and it just comes down to making a decision in the heat of the moment.

It got me thinking about doing a Fantasy Baseball version of the blind taste test. Below are stat lines for two pitchers. Their names have been removed, so you have to make a choice based solely on stats -- Player A or Player B?

Player A: 4-2, 3.44 ERA, 1.17 WHIP, 8.3 H/9, 0.7 HR/9, 2.2 BB/9, 7.8 SO/9
Player B: 3-2, 3.51 ERA, 1.32 WHIP, 8.4 H/9, 0.3 HR/9, 3.5 BB/9, 6.5 SO/9

At first glance, the numbers are pretty comparable. It seems like splitting hairs between Player A and Player B. However, if you had to choose, I would guess Player A would be the likely choice since he has a lower WHIP along with better walk and strikeout rates.

Well, if you chose Player A, then you agree with the masses. Player A is Blue Jays starting pitcher Marcus Stroman, who is owned in 71 percent of CBSSports.com leagues. Player B is Orioles starting pitcher Kevin Gausman, who is owned in 45 percent of leagues. Again, both players have fairly comparable numbers, but there is a huge gap in ownership percentages.

Most added players on CBSSports.com
Player Own %
1. Steve Pearce, OF, BAL 74 (+37)
2. Chris Young, SP, SEA 59 (+31)
3. Tom Koehler, SP, MIA 69 (+23)
4. Joe Smith, RP, LAA 60 (+19)
5. Vance Worley, SP, PIT 34 (+15)
6. Mike Zunino, C, SEA 66 (+14)
7. Clay Buchholz, SP, BOS 65 (+14)
8. Carlos Martinez, RP, STL 55 (+14)
9. Santiago Casilla, RP, SF 34 (+13)
10. Arismendy Alcantara, SS, CHC 21 (+13)

We debated this topic on Monday's podcast. My colleague Scott White felt Stroman was underowned, while I explained why I felt his ownership was right about where it should be. I felt Gausman was underowned and I would rather have him on my roster, especially in points leagues, because of his relief-pitcher eligibility.

I definitely understand why Gausman's ownership is below 50 percent. He keeps bouncing between the majors and minors, and his spot in the rotation is less secure than Stroman's. But it seems the Orioles are making an effort to find a rotation spot for the young hurler, who is 3-1 with a 2.45 ERA and .236 opponents' batting average in his last five starts.

Stroman has been very good as of late, going 3-2 with a 2.08 ERA and .208 opponents' batting average in his last seven starts. It seems I'm not giving Stroman enough credit for what he's done lately, and I'm too focused on remembering the pitcher that struggled in spring training and in his first stint in the majors this season. He's been a completely different pitcher since returning to Toronto in late May, and he deserves credit for his turnaround.

While I do feel both players need to be on rosters in standard formats, my concern with both young pitchers is how are they going to hold up in the dog days of summer and as the pennant race heats up?

I'm far less concerned about can they handle the pressure of clutch situations, as much as I'm concerned about if they are going to be able to hold up down the stretch. The most innings Stroman has logged in one season as professional is 111 2/3 innings in 2013, and Gausman's career best was 129 2/3 innings last season. Stroman is already at 85 1/3 innings (including minors), while Gausman is at 78 2/3 innings (including minors).

There's definitely sleeper potential with both pitchers in the second half, but choosing which one you want on your roster is going to take a little more homework than blindly picking one.

B.J. Upton, OF, Braves

Ownership in CBSSports.com leagues: 35 percent (up 5 percent)
Upton has been a much improved player since he was moved into the leadoff spot June 24. However, it's not like he's lighting the world on fire offensively. He has just a .260/.288/.420/.708 slash line in 12 games since moving to the top of the order. He's improved, but he still has just one home run and four RBI in that span, while striking out 15 times. The hits are beginning to fall, but it's not like his OBP is way up from where it was before he moved to the leadoff spot. Perhaps if his strikeout rate came down and his walk rate went up, then there would be reason to start touting Upton as an add because he could get more opportunities to steal bases. He does have three stolen bases in his last 12 games, so it seems he's being a bit more aggressive on the base paths out of the leadoff spot. But if that OBP doesn't rise or he doesn't start hitting for more power, then this is not the hot streak that's going to put Upton back on the map.
Leagues worth owning him: Deep formats

Andrelton Simmons, SS, Braves

Ownership in CBSSports.com leagues: 74 percent (up 7 percent)
Upton hasn't been the only Braves player to benefit from a lineup change. Simmons moved to the second spot in the order June 27, and since then he's batting .341 (14 for 41) with five multi-hit games, seven RBI and two stolen bases. But I might be the only person not really buying into Simmons' hot streak. I get the idea that he's going to see better pitches hitting in front of Freddie Freeman, Justin Upton and eventually Evan Gattis. Though, I'm not convinced he will be able to sustain it. He was due for a positive market correction after what has been a pretty bad first half. But it's not like Simmons' current slash line (.265/.303/.368/.671) is far off from what he's done in his career (.259/.304/.391/.695). In the minors, he had just a .299/.352/.397/.749 slash line. I understand he was very young in the minors and is still only 24 years old. Also, he hasn't yet shown the power he displayed last season, but I just don't know if I'm buying a move up the lineup as the spark for his breakout run. If this was more like J.D. Martinez or Steve Pearce, who made tweaks to their approaches and had the minor-league track record, then I'd be more willing to back Simmons.
Leagues worth owning him: Deep formats

Odrisamer Despaigne, SP, Padres

Ownership in CBSSports.com leagues: 18 percent (up 5 percent)
I can't remember any player getting less respect in Fantasy for a 2-0 record, 0.92 ERA and 0.97 WHIP through three starts than Despaigne. I hope the hesitation isn't because you feel like you have to pronounce his name correctly to own him in Fantasy. If that was the case, then I would never win. However, I can't really fault Fantasy owners here for opting against adding the Cuban pitcher off waivers. When you have more walks (eight) than strikeouts (five), you have to figure the wheels are bound to come off soon. The Padres are doing their best to explain Despaigne's success. Manager Bud Black said he's just rising to the competition. Cameron Maybin, who gets a pretty good view of what hitters are seeing at the plate from center field, said Despaigne's pitches are showing good movement and keeping hitters off balance. There's not much of a scouting report on the right-hander, who was sped through the minors after signing with the Padres in early May. Clearly, Despaigne's ERA and WHIP are pretty low, so a course correction seems inevitable.
Leagues worth owning him: Deep formats

Justin Ruggiano, OF, Cubs

Ownership in CBSSports.com leagues: 9 percent (up 7 percent)
Ruggiano has been dialed in the last few weeks, batting .457 (16 for 35) with two home runs, four doubles, six runs and nine RBI in his last nine games. He's basically played his way into regular playing time because of his hot bat. I know Fantasy owners want to buy into this being the real Ruggiano because of the player we saw in 2012, when he hit .313 with a .535 slugging percentage and .909 OPS with the Marlins. But Ruggiano is just not that good. There's a reason why he didn't have a breakthrough in the majors until he was 30 years old. He didn't perform all that well for the Marlins in 2013, which is why the team had no problems trading him to Chicago in the offseason. While his PT has increased, he's still not playing full time and does sit on back-to-back days fairly regularly. Also, his home/road splits have been polar opposites, and it's not what you think either. He's actually struggling at Wrigley Field and hitting well on the road. I've got no issue if you are looking to play the hot streak, but Ruggiano is mostly just a stopgap or deep-league option.
Leagues worth owning him: Deep formats

Santiago Casilla, RP, Giants

Ownership in CBSSports.com leagues: 34 percent (up 13 percent)
I'm warming up to the idea that Sergio Romo might not return to the closer's role for San Francisco. I say that because Casilla is a pretty darn good reliever and might keep the job, even if Romo bounces back. Since joining San Francisco in 2010, Casilla is 24-13 with a 2.06 ERA, 1.16 WHIP and 38 saves. He might not have a great strikeout rate, which hurts him in Fantasy, but as long as he gets the job done, what reason would manager Bruce Bochy have for removing Casilla from the closer's role? It's the if-it's-not-broken-then-why-fix-it approach. Casilla is going to jump up in my rankings. I'll probably rank him anywhere from No. 22-30 among relievers, which means I feel he's already capable of serving as a low-end No. 2 Fantasy reliever. Also, there's certainly potential for him to gain even more value because the Giants have the reputation for getting their closers plenty of save opportunities.
Leagues worth owning him: 10-team Rotisserie, 12-team Head-to-Head

Kevin Kiermaier, OF, Rays

Ownership in CBSSports.com leagues: 18 percent (up 11 percent)
It seems we might have final reached the end of Kiermaier's hot streak. After batting .330 with a .633 slugging percentage and 1.006 OPS in 35 games from May 17-June 30, he's mired in a 3-for-24 slump to begin July. It's not like we weren't anticipating a market correction. While Kiermaier got off to a great start this season in the minors, which triggered his promotion to the majors, he still produced just a .278/.352/.398/.750 slash line over five seasons down on the farm. The home run outburst was really unexpected since Kiermaier never had more than six in one season in the minors. He's proven to be a good contact hitter, OBP guy and a threat for 20-plus stolen bases, but it's the home run power that really made Kiermaier a standout player since mid-May. Kiermaier had good gap power in the minors and had enough speed to leg out 38 triples in 410 games. I still believe Kiermaier can be useful in Fantasy, but I view him more as a slightly better version of Gerardo Parra, who is owned in 41 percent of leagues.
Leagues worth owning him: Deep formats

Jed Lowrie, SS, Athletics

Ownership in CBSSports.com leagues: 69 percent (down 1 percent)
There's no denying Lowrie has been one of the more disappointing Fantasy options this season, but now is the time to start adding him back to rosters as he's showing signs of turning his season around. I know you've probably heard on more than one occasion to be patient with Lowrie because he's been a victim of bad luck. His contact rate has been on par through the first three months, but his BABIP was a little low, so if he stayed the course, then he was due to bounce back. Well, he's batting .289 with five multi-hit games, four doubles, six runs and six RBI in his last nine games. Lowrie had a pretty bad first half, even by his standards, and the last two times he's been healthy down the stretch, he's turned in pretty good second halves. In 2010, he hit .287 with nine home runs, 14 doubles and 24 RBI in 55 second-half games, and last season he hit .284 with eight home runs, 22 doubles and 38 RBI in 65 games after the All-Star break. Lowrie is shaping up to be a good buy-low middle infielder.
Leagues worth owning him: 10-team Rotisserie, 12-team Head-to-Head

Logan Morrison, 1B, Mariners

Ownership in CBSSports.com leagues: 24 percent (up 11 percent)
Morrison is batting .313 with a .493 slugging percentage, .849 OPS, three home runs and 12 RBI in his last 17 games. His hot streak has been good enough for manager Lloyd McClendon to hand him starting job at first base and demote Justin Smoak to the minors. Morrison has been on a run since smashing his bat against the dugout wall in frustration June 15, which opened a cut above his eye that required five stitches. Morrison admits the moment of weakness served as a wake-up call. He's taken a more relaxed approach at the plate, which has allowed him to implement the tweaks he made to his swing during a rehab assignment prior to coming off the disabled list in mid-June. Morrison hit .308 with a .477 slugging percentage and .893 OPS in 18 games with Triple-A Tacoma. Those numbers look eerily similar to what's he done the last few weeks. There's always injury concerns regarding Morrison and first base is a deep Fantasy position, but there's no issue chasing the hot streak if you don't have to mortgage the farm to get him on your roster.
Leagues worth owning him: Deep formats

Dayan Viciedo, OF, White Sox

Ownership in CBSSports.com leagues: 38 percent (up 5 percent)
Viciedo has quietly put up good numbers the last few weeks, batting .273 with a .561 slugging percentage, .885 OPS, five home runs and 10 RBI in his last 19 games. But his Fantasy ownership has only risen slightly. I can't really blame owners for that. We've figured out Viciedo as a streaky hitter, so Fantasy owners really don't want to make a big investment in a player that can go cold as quickly as he can get hot. There are rumors that Viciedo might move to a contender by the July 31 trade deadline, which could help boost his Fantasy value. But I would rather wait to see if that happens before using a speculative waiver claim on the 25-year-old outfielder. Viciedo contends his recent surge is because the hits are starting to fall. I bought into his early season hot streak to only be burned by a significant slump that dropped his average to .244 on June 15. Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me.
Leagues worth owning him: Deep formats

Lucas Duda, 1B, Mets

Ownership in CBSSports.com leagues: 52 percent (up 49 percent)
It's time to start giving Duda his due credit. He's been pretty solid since the Mets changed hitting coaches in late May. He is batting .279 with a .390 on-base percentage, .582 slugging percentage and .972 OPS in his last 37 games. He also has eight home runs, 13 doubles, 25 RBI, 22 walks and 29 strikeouts in that span. If it was a smaller sample size, then maybe we could just call this another Duda hot streak, but it's been several weeks, so it's time to start buying into Duda as more than a deep-league option. Sure, he's still not great against left-handed pitchers, but he is doing enough damage against righties to overcome that. Kole Calhoun isn't great against left-handed pitchers either, but Fantasy owners are willing to give him more of a chance than Duda. I know we've been burned by Duda in the past, but he's looking a lot like the batter he was in the minors and during his rookie season in 2011. Duda is averaging 20 Fantasy points over the last six scoring periods, and over the last 28 days he's the No. 6 ranked first baseman and No. 7 ranked outfielder in Rotisserie formats.
Leagues worth owning him: 10-team Rotisserie, 14-team Head-to-Head

American League options

Logan Forsythe, 2B, Rays

Ownership in CBSSports.com leagues: 57 percent (up 36 percent)
As of June 15, Forsythe was batting .178 with no home runs and five RBI in 49 games. Since June 16, he is batting .393 with three home runs and eight RBI in his last 15 games. Whatever has lit a fire under Forsythe seems to be working. However, this is probably just going to be a short-lived hot streak for Fantasy owners to enjoy. Forsythe has seen an increase in playing time recently as Ben Zobrist has moved to shortstop with Yunel Escobar on the disabled list. Escobar is close to returning, which likely means a decrease in playing time for Forsythe. Rays manager Joe Maddon has been known to play the hot hand, but Forsythe really doesn't have staying power. He is a career .242 hitter with a .349 slugging percentage in the majors. In the minors, Forsythe was a good contact hitter and great OBP guy, but he had marginal power. He's mostly a bench player, so get ready to drop him as soon as the trail goes cold.
Leagues worth owning him: AL-only

National League options

Tsuyoshi Wada, SP, Cubs

Ownership in CBSSports.com leagues: 15 percent (up 13 percent)
Wada arrived stateside in 2012 after a very productive career in Japan. Unfortunately, he never stepped on a major-league mound in his two years with Baltimore because of a slow recovery from Tommy John surgery. Wada latched on with the Cubs this season and has been toiling in the minors until now, as he's set to make his MLB debut Tuesday against the Reds. He's been pitching very well for Triple-A Iowa, going 9-5 with a 2.66 ERA, 1.16 WHIP and 9.3 K/9 rate in 17 outings (16 starts). He looks a lot like the pitcher he was in Japan, when he posted a 3.13 ERA, 1.15 WHIP and 8.3 K/9 rate over nine seasons. What's even more encouraging is that Wada was able to post pretty impressive numbers in the hitter-friendly PCL. He did have a bit of a high home-run rate (0.9 HR/9), but he didn't compound the problem with a high walk rate (2.3 BB/9) or give up a ton of hits (8.1 H/9). Wada's biggest problem could be getting run support, but he's an intriguing enough option to take an initial flier on in NL-only leagues.
Leagues worth owning him: NL-only

Player you might reconsider dropping

Oswaldo Arcia, OF, Twins

Ownership in CBSSports.com leagues: 23 percent (down 3 percent)
This is probably not a popular opinion, especially after the cold spell Arcia was mired in for most of June, but he seems to be maturing as a hitter right in front of our eyes. He has just one homer in his last 12 games, but over that span he has a .263 batting average, .429 on-base percentage and .823 OPS. The reason I'm so confident in Arcia is that his plate discipline is improving. He's walked eight times in his last 49 plate appearances, as opposed to six times in his first 115 plate appearances. Granted, Arcia had four home runs over that span, but he slugged just .377. He's slugging .395 in his last 12 games and as long as he's swinging at good pitches, the power should come. Arcia's problem during his slump was plate discipline. He was being aggressive and seemed to be swinging at anything near the plate. He's still striking out a lot, but the plate discipline is improving and he continues to start regularly for Minnesota. You know Arcia can rake, which is evident by his .314 average and .542 slugging percentage in the minors. With a little patience, he could end up being a second-half sleeper.
Leagues worth owning him: Deep formats

Q &A

I feel like Dallas Keuchel is trending downward. Should I drop him for Tyson Ross? --@Jeevz79

MH: I can't say that the same thought hasn't crossed my mind. But, maybe Keuchel gets a pass for the time being because he's been battling a wrist injury, which probably has a lot to do with his recent struggles. Perhaps the All-Star break has come at an opportune time, and the extra days to rest will be of benefit. While I'm still a proponent of stashing Keuchel, I would make this move because I value Ross over Keuchel. In my starting pitcher rankings, I have Ross ranked 35th and Keuchel 49th. In most formats, though, I'd give Keuchel a few more starts after the All-Star break to assess his second-half value before making any rash decisions.

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Player News
Nick Tropeano strikes out four in loss vs. Indians
by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(11:34 pm ET) Astros pitcher Nick Tropeano took a loss Tuesday, surrendering two runs (one earned) on four hits and two walks in five innings while striking out four in his team's 4-2 defeat against the Indians.

Tropeano (1-1) pitched about as well as he did in his first start but faced a much tougher road to a win Tuesday with Corey Kluber racking up strikeouts against Houston hitters. The Astros pitcher gave up a run on a groundout in the first inning before the Indians plated an unearned run in the fourth. Tropeano owns a 2.70 ERA and 9:4 K:BB ratio in 10 innings. He's scheduled to face the Rangers Monday.


Corey Kluber strikes out 14 in dominant win vs. Astros
by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(11:33 pm ET) Indians pitcher Corey Kluber earned a win Tuesday, giving up just one earned run on seven hits and two walks in seven innings while striking out a season-high 14 batters in his team's 4-2 victory over the Astros.

Kluber (16-9) allowed an RBI single the first inning but went on to deliver his ninth double-digit-strikeout performance of the season. He's second in the majors in strikeouts during his breakout season. Kluber owns a 2.42 ERA, 1.10 WHIP and 244:48 K:BB ratio in 219 2/3 innings. He's scheduled to face the Twins Sunday in what should be his penultimate start of the season.


Joe Nathan blows save in loss vs. Twins
by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(11:08 pm ET) Tigers closer Joe Nathan blew a save opportunity and took a loss Tuesday, allowing two earned runs on two hits and one walk in two-thirds of an inning in his team's 4-3 defeat against the Twins.

A well-pitched game turned into a wild one in the ninth inning Tuesday, as Nathan (4-4) followed up a blown save on a three-run home run against Glen Perkins with his own troubles in the bottom of the ninth. The Twins delivered the tying run on a one-out double and earned the win with a walkoff infield single. Nathan has given up runs in back-to-back appearances and now owns a 5.10 ERA and 52:28 K:BB ratio in 54 2/3 innings.


Glen Perkins blows save, picks up win Tuesday
by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(11:03 pm ET) Twins closer Glen Perkins blew a save opportunity Tuesday but still ended up with a win in his team's 4-3 victory over the Tigers.

Perkins (4-3) was handed a 2-0 lead after a brilliant performance by Ricky Nolasco, and he served up a three-run home run to put his team in a hole. However, the offense delivered a walkoff win in the bottom half of the ninth to take Perkins off the hook. The closer's recent struggles continue, as he's now allowed runs in four straight appearances and six of his last eight games, serving up five home runs during that stretch. Perkins owns a 3.65 ERA and 66:11 K:BB ratio in 61 2/3 innings.


Jake Odorizzi spins six one-run innings in win vs. Yankees
by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(11:00 pm ET) Rays pitcher Jake Odorizzi earned a win Tuesday, giving up one earned run on five hits and one walk in six innings while striking out three in his team's 6-1 victory over the Yankees.

Odorizzi (11-12) gave up an RBI single in the second inning and appeared he may be headed for a tough loss befor the offense came through with a run in the fifth and another in the sixth. Three of his last four outings have been excellent, but he also has two clunkers in his last five starts. Odorizzi owns a 3.98 ERA and 171:56 K:BB ratio in 165 innings. He's scheduled to face the Red Sox next Tuesday.


Michael Pineda strikes out five in loss vs. Rays Tuesday
by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(11:00 pm ET) Yankees pitcher Michael Pineda took a loss Tuesday, allowing two runs (one earned) on four hits and two walks in 5 1/3 innings while striking out five in his team's 6-1 defeat against the Rays.

Pineda (3-5) tossed four scoreless innings before the Rays broke through with a run on an error in the fifth. The second run against the starter came on a bunt single in the sixth with runners on the corners. Pineda owns a 2.15 ERA, 0.93 WHIP and 41:6 K:BB ratio in 62 2/3 innings. He's scheduled to face the Orioles Monday.


Ricky Nolasco delivers eight scoreless innings Tuesday
by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(10:58 pm ET) Twins pitcher Ricky Nolasco didn't factor into the decision Tuesday, allowing just five hits and one walk in eight scoreless innings while striking out five in his team's 4-3 win over the Tigers.

Nolasco came through with his best start of the season Tuesday, but closer Glen Perkins surrendered a three-run bomb in the ninth to deny him the win. Nolasco has actually held the opposition to two earned runs or fewer in four of his last five starts, but he still owns a 5.34 ERA and 104:35 K:BB ratio in 148 1/3 innings. He's slated to face the Diamondbacks Monday.


Rick Porcello allows two runs in no-decision vs. Twins
by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(10:57 pm ET) Tigers pitcher Rick Porcello didn't factor into the decision Tuesday, giving up two earned runs on seven hits and two walks in eight innings while striking out five in his team's 4-3 loss to the Twins.

Porcello remains winless in four straight outings, though he's delivered quality starts three times during that stretch. The damage Tuesday came on an RBI single in the fourth inning and a solo home run in the sixth, and the starter needed just 103 pitches to get through eight frames. Porcello owns a 3.19 ERA and 122:36 K:BB ratio in 197 2/3 innings. He's scheduled to face the White Sox Monday.


Jake Arrieta spins 13-strikeout gem in near no-hitter vs. Reds
by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(10:48 pm ET) Cubs pitcher Jake Arrieta lost a no-hitter in the eighth inning Tuesday, giving up just one hit and one walk in a complete-game shutout and striking out 13 in his team's 7-0 win over the Reds.

Arrieta (9-5) tossed 7 1/3 no-hit innings before Brandon Phillips broke through for a double in the eighth, but the starter was able to buckle down and strike out three of the final five batters he faced to preserve his first career complete game and shutout. Arrieta owns a 2.65 ERA, 1.02 WHIP and 157:40 K:BB ratio in 149 2/3 innings. He's scheduled to face the Cardinals next Tuesday in what will likely be his final start of the season.


Johnny Cueto blasted for six runs in loss vs. Cubs
by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(10:44 pm ET) Reds pitcher Johnny Cueto took a loss Tuesday, allowing six earned runs on five hits and five walks in 5 2/3 innings while striking out eight in his team's 7-0 defeat against the Cubs.

Cueto (18-9) had an atypical night Tuesday, issuing a walk with the bases loaded twice in the sixth inning to help contribute to his worst start since giving up six earned runs in 5 1/3 innings on May 20. He still owns a 2.33 ERA, 0.98 WHIP and 228:64 K:BB ratio in 227 2/3 innings. Cueto is scheduled to face the Brewers next Tuesday.


 
 
 
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